The “overview effect” is described by astronauts as an irresistible realization, upon seeing Earth from space, of the fragility and singularity of our world. National boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative. (http://www.cartogracy.com/about)
According to cartogracy.com there are eight armed conflicts, 14 insurgencies and five civil unrests occurring throughout the world today, visually illustrated below.
Most of these conflicts are widely accepted as globally insignificant, judging by the preferential media coverage given to loss of life due to conflict in Western countries versus that in Africa and the Middle East. Without going into the details of why this occurs and various conspiracy theories or real world realities, it is evident that these conflicts are clustered together with the rest of the world enjoying relative historical peace.
Contrary to popular opinion, we are living in one of the most peaceful times in history.
It is easy to become immersed in the news and think that the world is gradually deteriorating and becoming more violent. This is especially true if you are an avid reader of the news.
You are more likely to be killed in a car accident, drown, or be murdered in gang-related violence, than by a terrorist attack. This is true for most people in the world. However, due to what psychologists call “availability bias”, people overestimate the probability of events associated with memorable or vivid occurrences. The mass media compounds this problem as they sensationalize, and at times over-sensationalize, events. Whether it is an airplane crash, a terrorist attack or even a hurricane, the fact is that most persons are more likely to die a much more mundane death. Fortunately, humans can change, and whether due to the overview effect or another phenomenon, the world will hopefully continue to gradually become more peaceful.
I leave you with text from Carl Sagan, a noted astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist and author.
“Look again at that dot (the earth as viewed from space). That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar’, every ‘supreme leader’, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
– Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994